It is said that the fruit of the spirit is kindness. Klaus Booysen is a man that reflects nothing but kindness. That’s why, no matter what life dished out to him, he has always been able to walk the walk. Today he is a very successful production assistant at Applegarth, part of the Fruitways group of farms in the EGVV area. By Gerrit Rautenbach
Life dishes out a myriad of things to a myriad of people out there. Everybody reacts differently to what happens to them. When lady luck reigns, people either gloat and want more, or they receive what they get with gratefulness. And when the going gets tough, some people crumble while others grin and bear it, looking life square in the eyes.
Klaus Booysen loves smiling. But Klaus is honest about his smile because you can see the smile is always in his eyes too. “I was born and bred in fruit country, right here in Grabouw. My parents both worked on deciduous fruit farms here and my brothers and I grew up learning a lot about it. I’m the oldest, then it’s Deon and Simon the youngest,” Klaus begins his story.
Life was good all around for Klaus but just before he obtained his matric, the bubble burst. His parents got divorced and his father, the idol of all three brothers simply vanished. Klaus barely managed to pass his matric and straight after that, he had to get out there, helping his mom to cope. To make as much money and to learn as much as possible about farming, Klaus started working for various contractors, traveling from farm to farm, constantly learning new skills; pruning, packing, harvesting, spraying, you name it. He went as far as Citrusdal, but after a while, he realised sending money to his mom was not good enough, he needed to be there for her. She was battling to cope. This was when Simon, the youngest, contracted TB Meningitis and Deon was literally not coping mentally with their father leaving them just like that. Klaus came back home, getting a good position at Monteith Farm on the Viljoenshoop Road, about 20 kilometres from home.
“This disaster had a huge effect on all of us, but it did hit Deon the hardest. He was Dad’s favourite and he could not cope with what happened. Also, he had to leave school, partly because he had to be with our mother, but also because of the psychological effect of the loss. And the hurt. He actually ended up in hospital. It wasn’t fair on either of them, so I came home.”
Working at Monteith was an amazing experience for Klaus. But then Klaus has the ability to turn anything into a positive experience. “I went on as many courses as possible to upgrade my qualifications and I am currently at NQF4. Once I attended a course where the emphasis was on topsoil and understanding the importance of it made me take notice of nature. Seeing the fynbos flowering and seeing the fires coming, burning it into black nothing. Seeing the new flowers coming out again, giving colour to life. It’s a bit like my brothers, Mom, and I. The divorce was the fire. But we started flowering again. Mom, to me, was the topsoil. Today Simon is a first-class mechanical wizard in town and Deon a serious production assistant on Monteith.”
To be even closer to his mother, he took a new job at Applegarth farm virtually in Grabouw and was part of the Fruitways group. The group of farms has 84 teams in total and there is constant competition amongst them for the top tier. When Klaus joined, he was made foreman of the team in the 84th spot. This is the best thing that could have happened to the team. Just like Klaus helped nurture his siblings back to a normal life, he was doing the same to Team 84. At first, they were rather recalcitrant with this new kid on the block, but the thing with Klaus is his likeability. And his cunning. He asked them how they are used to work, timings, lunch breaks et al. They gave him the parameters. And he stuck to it. “These are the rules you gave me,” he would respond when they complained.
There is a saying that you have to be cruel to be kind. Klaus rewrote the saying: You have to be strict to be kind. And then there is his joy for life, his inability to be unhappy or not smile. Smiling with his eyes. And above all his accumulated knowledge. And his willingness to transfer that knowledge, improving the lives of everybody he is in contact with.
In less than a year Team 84 moved up to be one of the prestigious Top 5 teams. “You’re a good team leader, Klaus,” responded one of the judges. “No, I have a good team,” was his answer.
What makes Klaus an asset to this world? That the hurt he experienced will not be transferred onto other people. On the contrary, it made him determined to go the opposite way. Life is all about caring. Giving. Not running away.
Above all, it’s about being there. And smiling. With your eyes.